What is 22@ ?
First of all, 22@ is a bit of a visual joke. “22a” was the zoning designation for industrial lands in Barcelona. With the substitution of @ for a, suddenly detritus from the 19th-century became fertile ground for the 21st.
Broadly, 22@ is another example of the Barcelona Model – a grandly conceived strategy, formulated jointly by the public and private sectors – some say, the ruling class or establishment – to renew the city in order to maintain Barcelona’s world-class status by exploiting dominant urban and economic trends of the time. Particularly in conjunction with a world-sized event.
Technically, 22@Barcelona are the plans and policies for two hundred hectares of dormant industrial land in Poblenou – once the Manchester of Catalonia – to create “an innovative district offering modern spaces for the strategic concentration of intensive knowledge-based activities.”
Specifically, 115 blocks accommodating four million square metres of space were rezoned in 2000 as a public-private initiative, focused on five high-tech commercial and research hubs for media, renewable energy, medicine, information technology and design.
And because this is Barcelona, the city undertook to ensure subsidised and private housing, green space and public schools, sports facilities and medical clinics. Plus the protections of an Industrial Heritage Plan.
Barcelona was one of the first cities to pursue this high-tech dream, and the initial results were encouraging:
As of December 2011, an estimated 4,500 new companies had moved to the district since 2000, an average of 545 per year and 1.2 per day, although the most prolific era was from 2003 to 2006. Of the 4,500 companies, 47.3 percent were new start-ups. The rest moved from other locations. About 31 percent of companies in 22@ are technology or knowledge-based companies.
Urbanistically, 22@ is a kaleidoscope of mixed uses, where residential, commercial and industrial buildings, new and old, co-exist, sometimes brutally and in close proximity. This loose form of planning, more intent than typology, has produced a distinct character in a city of distinct districts.
22@ today is shorthand for the activities and form of the evolving districts on either side the The Diagonal:
Less apparent but as important is the Integrated Infrastructure Plan – a 180-million euro refurbishment of the public spaces and utility network: power supply, telecom network, centralized climate control, and, coolest of all, a pneumatic refuse collection system.